Composing for Chicory — Motifs & Memories

When I first started thinking about the music for Chicory, there was just a prototype: a little dog in a blank room that you could paint. It evoked a lot of memories of doodling in MS Paint. No real sophisticated tools, just a palette and ideas. Relating that to music got me contemplating my own memories of learning music: playing to colored dots on my toy piano, playing recorder in elementary school, singing solfege in choir. I didn’t want things to feel childish, but I did want the music that accompanied the entry into a game about pure creativity to start from one place with plenty of room to grow.

I think a lot about western music theory. It feels a lot like the legacy of the Wielders. Maybe we’ll get into that a bit, as we go. But full disclosure, there will be spoilers in these liner notes. Context means a lot, especially for the connections between melodies and the narrative, so check out the game if you want, first! These notes will still be here when you’re done ❤

The album cover for Chicory: A Colorful Tale (Original Soundtrack), painted by Alexis Dean-Jones

Feel free to check out the Chicory soundtrack on your service of choice if you’d like to listen along as you read through these liner notes!

Blank Canvas

I originally wrote the beginning of this track to accompany the animated title screen swoosh as it comes in. It was such a perfect little painted intro, so I wanted to give it an arpeggiated flourish, in this case a major 7 chord with the 9th hanging out there at the bottom. I wanted the title screen to reflect the themes of both major characters: Chicory in the first half, and Pizza in the second. I’ll get into the differences between the two later on, but for now it was important to establish both themes out the gate since how they play between each other became the heart at the center of the soundtrack.

I wanted to keep the instrumentation light, focusing just on the melodies & a bit of accompaniment. It was important to have an interplay between the piano and harpsichord, even if the latter is only playing a light reverb’d sting. Sitting in the back, too, is a distant orchestral pad sustain, giving a subtle tease to the instrumentation to come.

A Colorful Tale

A Colorful Tale is a suite of dynamic cues that encompasses the introduction to the story and its plot, carefully arranged to be a bit less upsetting than it appears in-game, for ease of listening. (The original An Afternoon in Luncheon EP split up these cues into a faithful recreation of the intro & ‘Entering Luncheon’, but Greg and I made the creative decision to combine them into one flowing suite so that you could hear them in a new context on the full album.) When I wrote these, I really wanted to channel the mindset of Pizza, the little dog that could, and their mythologizing of the Wielders. To them, Chicory is the coolest thing since sliced bread, their entire world, and only gateway into who the Wielders are. So we get two very different takes on Chicory’s theme, all played in Pizza’s key instrument, the recorder: First, a slow and mythical introduction. Second, a super rambunctious dramatization of her theme as she cleans and gradually gets more and more unnerved by ~mysterious things~ happening. At the end, she discovers the unattended brush and chooses to wield it in lieu of its owner, Chicory, creating a dramatic fanfare out of the mysterious hare’s motif.

The Town of Luncheon

A hometown is always a really important song in any adventure. It’s warm, feels nostalgic every time you return to it, and provides an emotional grounding for wherever you go from there. While there’s no one “main theme” for the game, Pizza’s theme is as close as you’ll get for the first half of the game. Writing their theme as well as Luncheon’s music went hand-in-hand since it felt right to pair the main character’s theme to their current home. It’s also the home of Chicory, but Pizza’s theme actually derives from Chicory’s in a motivic sense! While Chicory’s theme steps from Mi up to Sol, up a step and back down again, Pizza’s theme steps from Mi up to Sol, then repeats Sol three more times before following the same pattern. Rhythmically, they also differ a little: Chicory’s theme waits a quarter note, then begins on 2. Pizza’s theme begins on a pickup to 1. To me it felt like a comparison of elegance versus eagerness, like a kid running to catch up to someone they look up to and skipping a bit before matching their pace. It’s something that defines Pizza as a character, but the use of repetition changes over the course of the story to mean new things as it goes.

Key identifiers: starting as a pick-up, and the repeated notes in the melody.
Key identifiers: starting after beat 1, and a more lilting drawn-out line.

Supper Woods

Fun fact: This was actually the first piece I wrote for Chicory! There’s a lot packed into here, but it was really a bit of a mission statement for making something that felt adventurous and fun, but steeped in mystery and twisting renaissance instruments into modern grooves. Thematically, there’s two things playing against each other throughout the entire track. The opening riff that begins the piece was something that got stuck in my head early, but became the basis for what I considered the ‘Darkness’ theme. It’s one of the sneakier motifs, because it pops up all over the place in very unexpected ways, primarily because of how easy it is to fit into any chord progression. While it’s presented initially as a bit of a chord-framing ostinato, the main motif is a leap from Sol, up to Me in the 2nd octave, then down to Re. It’s fairly innocent, here, as a groove everything else sits in. The main melody, however, is a minor rendition of Pizza’s theme, forming a feeling of adventure as they press out into the unknown forest at Blackberry’s insisting.

More of an ostinato than anything, but this motion is recycled in a lot of places to call back to the initial encounter with the dark trees.

Eyes in the Darkness

While Supper Woods had a subtle statement of the darkness theme, there’s nothing subtle about the statement Eyes in the Darkness makes. It is, ultimately, a bit of a prelude about the darkness and what it really is. The track, like most of the boss tracks, is comprised of a ton of dynamic cues & loops that are all choreographed to the progression of the encounter. I’ve assembled it all into a tasteful track using an ideal progression.

On a technical level, the boss fights all differ in how their music is assembled, but an overall design intention was to create encounters that paired mechanic timing & gameplay. For this first encounter, it’s split up into two major modes: music loops that wait for the gameplay, and music phrases that the gameplay waits for. During the initial reveal of the eyes, everything is broken down into tiny loops, since the tension is building as you’re learning how to fight back using your brush. So each “phase” builds into a new version of the loop, adding instruments. Eventually, once the melody appears, the gameplay detaches from the music & lets the melody play out. If the player does get to the end of the melodic section, the music will loop endlessly in a vamp until you progress. Otherwise, once you activate the final phase, the last melodic section will play as you try to survive the attacks. At this point it doesn’t matter how much damage you do, because the final phase is paired with the music to end precisely when the bgm does, but it still has one final stinger triggered by the player to make it feel like you caused it to end.

Not Anymore

For the first half of the game, this is Chicory’s theme. It’s sad, mournful, depressed. It reflects the state you find her in the very first time you see her in person. It isn’t a full statement of her theme, but it does contain all the identifying attributes, before meandering into a bit of a sighing refrain. While her identifying instrument is the clarinet, I used the bass clarinet in this track to really go for a darker tone to emphasize her state of mind at the time.

Potluck

I had originally written Pizza’s family’s theme as a cute little song that plays when you call your mom (and sometimes dad) at phone booths, so when it came time to write the theme for Potluck, Pizza’s hometown, I knew I needed to arrange it in a soothing town theme style. I originally chose an accordion for the melody, because it seemed appropriately homelike, but when my woodwinds player Kristin heard it she thought it might sound great on melodica, so I gave her the go-ahead to try it. Suddenly it sounded even more cute and homelike than I’d initially thought, so the instrument change became official. Since it’s also Pizza’s original home, I had to add in their theme to the second half.

The family theme is actually split up into two segments, since I wanted to give the feeling of the two parents’ different styles despite being a family unit.
The B theme is structured similarly to A, but rambles on a while.

Art Academy

Both Greg and I are big fans of the Nintendo DS game Art Academy, so for the literal art academy in Potluck we wanted to do a bit of an homage to the iconic song from that game, Swan Lesson. I didn’t want to stop there, though, and snuck in some nods to Mario Paint as well. Melodically, though, it’s all based on the family theme. Anyway I thought it would be pretty funny to have a guitar duet between a real-sounding guitar and an extremely fake SNES one, which is actually a metaphor I’ve used a few times in the game to refer to the relationship between students and teachers. Also there’s a dog barking sound in there because you’re a little dog.

Appie Foothills

I love a good mountain theme. I’ve had Tal Tal Heights from Link’s Awakening stuck in my head literally since I played the original. I really wanted to write something that evoked those same vibes of adventurous exploration. There’s a lot of fun meandering around keys and tonality in the track, and somehow the entire piece sort of came to me one morning. I just started humming a big deviation from the core Pizza theme and before I knew it I’d recorded me singing out the entire piece from end to end. So from there it became a fun game of taking what I’d written in my head and orchestrating it out for an eclectic ensemble featuring one of my favorite medieval instruments the cornetto. I couldn’t find a real one to record, but the sample library I used blended perfectly with Kristin’s recorder & oboe, so you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference!

Elevenses

While there are no recurring themes in the music for Elevenses, I wanted to really capture the sleepy mountain town vibes, while following a self-imposed challenge to write a song in the time signature of 11/8, to match the town’s name. It’s a slow eighth note, divided into a number of different subdivisions as it meanders around the melodic line. In the second half, the piano’s bass notes help clarify the meter. It’s not an exact motif, but this piece does introduce a compositional idea which is a little side-note passage that doesn’t necessarily relate to the original material, but provides a short contrasting section before the repeat. This is revisited in other tracks related to self-reflection, so it could be considered some sort of connective tissue.

Wielder Temple

The Wielder Temple is a subtly evolving track that adds a few new elements floor-by-floor, eventually giving way to a spooky reduction in the basement. It’s built on the foundation of everything that feels like the ancient history of the Wielders, something that is equally mysterious but with dark roots. There’s a little statement of Chicory’s theme that comes in on the mellotron by the time you reach the 2nd basement, as well as another small self-reflective passage played by the recorders. The dynamic implementation for this track was fun, because it doesn’t actually cross-fade as you go from floor to floor, but it will change to the next floor’s loop the next time it goes back around, to give the impression that it’s progressing naturally in its repetition. I love watching people react to the first time the 3rd basement’s drop comes in. I originally wrote it this way, but over the course of such a long dungeon I needed to do something to lighten it up, since having that drop come in every single time felt a smidge overwhelming right from the get-go.

Probably Ancient Evil

In a lot of ways, each boss fight presented a daunting challenge for me as a composer. Because there had to be escalation from boss to boss, and I’d already written a ridiculously hype 1st boss track, I had to find ways to continue to evolve the sound and increase the stakes for each fight. For this one specifically, Greg gave me some references that included some really spooky downtempo dubstep. Also, unlike the first boss, which he designed before I’d scored it, he let me go first this time and write a song that he’d design the boss fight around. So I came up with this really disturbingly emotive “choir” synth that I applied all sorts of filters & distortion to in order to really make it feel like this primal anguish. Greg’s boss design, then, totally followed suit to make it an almost physical embodiment of the music. It’s creepy as hell and I won’t spoil it if you haven’t played it yet, so go do that. Anyway Chicory’s theme is in here a lot huh. I’m sure it isn’t significant in any way. Don’t worry about it.

A Wielder’s Duty

I wanted to write a very emotionally complex, lyrical theme for Blackberry, because she’s one of the more complicated characters. An older master, keeper of the old ways of wielding the brush, very in tune with tradition and duty, but someone who is responsible for a lot of hurt and trauma. It’s also the only theme in 3/4, an elegant waltz to contrast with everyone else’s straight-forward march forward. Her theme also starts with repetition, much like Pizza, but does so in a stubborn plodding way. It’s not the repetition of an amateur, but of someone stuck in their ways. I knew that I’d be reusing her theme as the game went on, so it was important to have a hook that differentiated it from Pizza & Chicory’s themes, but also felt subtly connected to the darkness theme. More on that later.

Since the piece this theme plays in occurs multiple times across the game, I wrote out the full melody. As a motif, it mostly pulls from the 1st three measures.

Just Like You

For the sequence where Chicory and Pizza paint portraits of each other, I wanted to do something fun with their themes to directly reflect how it might feel to have each character give impressions of the other. So I wrote a little duet where Chicory’s clarinet plays Pizza’s theme, and Pizza’s recorder plays Chicory’s theme. First individually, and then together when they’re comparing their work. It’s a simple little thing combined with the Luncheon guitar riff that I think makes the scene come together.

Sips River

The Sips River is a bit of an anomalous zone in the overworld, because it connects so many places and becomes more of a passing vibe on the way from place to place. It was important for me to have a theme that wasn’t necessarily tied to any one place or character, but a sparse and beautiful spark of music that could be appreciated in passing. But if you stuck around, it would transform into a slowly twisting rush of water flowing down the bank. (Pizza’s theme does still play, though. They’re everywhere!!)

Gulp Swamp

Gulp Swamp is a bit of an interesting place, since it functions much like the Wielder Temple as a prelude to a spooky darkness tree, but it’s a fully outdoors area. I still wanted to bring in a number of elements from the temple, however, with the electric bass as well as the pan pipes replacing the recorders as a repeating texture. There’s a bit of a wonder to it, though, and reflection of Pizza’s thoughts being clouded with their previous interaction with Chicory. While they’re pretty ambiguous, parts of both of their motifs make an appearance throughout the piece. When preparing to write this track, Greg shared with me the really cool soundtrack to Samorost 3 by Floex, which had a lot of fun similarities to the vibe of the swamp. With that in mind I tried to channel that same sort of energy into the area~

Mistake

Anything I say about this track will be a big spoiler, but needless to say things don’t really go so well. It’s a bad time. I used a lot of tape distortion, reverb, and other filters to make the sound as hecked up as I could and really unsettle the listener. Are you unsettled? It’ll be ok I promise!!

Erase You

For the third boss fight, things escalate in a way that don’t necessarily mean making the sound or visuals bigger or more overwhelming, but a bit more intimate. Because there wasn’t really anywhere to expand such a huge synth sound, I instead focused on making a rhythmically intense chamber piece. The dynamic bits play around with simulated record stops to “peel away” layers of the track, reflected by the mechanics of the duel. It’s a big emotional moment, and I tried to make the way the motifs play with each other feel like a reflection of the themes being explored.

Seeds of Doubt

I had a lot of fun completely re-harmonizing The Town of Luncheon into something that uses literally the exact same recordings of the lead english horn & cello parts, but with an entirely new surrounding that feels altogether unsettling. From an economy of budget it made a lot of sense to reuse the solos, but I also wanted to get a little psychological and challenge listeners to remember what the original arrangement sounded like. What were the chords again? Wasn’t it always like this? Spooky.

Messed Up Person

Much like Seeds of Doubt, I wanted to take a familiar theme and begin to twist it in an uncomfortable way. It begins much in the same way as Not Anymore, but taking it even further, driving it further into darkness and unease. It very much signals that it’s time to go away, to seek help in a new place.

Letter From the Queen

That all sure was getting a bit dark, huh? Well, luckily here’s the tiniest marching band to put you at ease. It introduces a brand new theme, one we’ll be hearing a lot soon! I wonder who it could be. Please ignore the name identifying whose theme it is.

who is she??

Dinners, The Big City

The big city is also the biggest live arrangement in the whole game, featuring musicians on saxophone, english horn, bassoon, oboe, guitar, drums, and full string section. Because Dinners is the metropolitan hub of Picnic, I wanted to go all out and make a proper metropolitan track. While the melody in Dinners is unique to the city, it does feature the same first 3 notes as both Chicory’s and Pizza’s theme, keeping it properly grounded while also letting it do its own big city thing. The second half, of course, brings back Pizza’s motif in the bassoon with the guitar soloing around it, a little pup surrounded by so much busyness.

Clementine

In the heart of the big city, Clementine, Pizza’s big lil sis, is there to give a bit of a consoling chat amidst everything that’s going on. It was such a sweet moment that I had to write a special version of the family theme just for her. I know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed in a new place when your insides want to burst out, and so I wanted to make Clementine’s version of the family theme something that felt like a big warm loving hug. I used primarily a soft electric piano to give that sense of the big city while still bringing it in close with a few emotional synth tones floating around it.

Teatime Meadows

Funny enough, the background music for Teatime Meadows didn’t start out as a Chicory piece at all. I originally wrote it as an elaboration of my own personal town theme from Animal Crossing New Horizons. When I played it for Greg, we both agreed it would sound great in Chicory with a bit of a modified arrangement. The original oboe lead felt a bit too sad, so I translated it to the Norwegian folk instrument langeleik to give it a personal touch from my family. (While it’s usually played with drone strings, I wrote the melody for the single melodic string.) I actually grew up with one in our family home, though I didn’t know what it was or how to play it. Every time I hear it now, though, I remember the langeleik hanging in the living room near to the traditional tapestry, the cabinet carved by my grandfather, and the framed photograph of my Sami great grandfather that marked our heritage. So consider Teatime Meadows a little personal gift from my family to yours.

Caves

One of the most fun parts of this track was beginning to create an entirely different vibe for the underground, with its own instruments and themes. Because there’s these really cool crystals that glow when you paint them, I made each color represent a different note that turns on for the duration of the screen. The album version of the track arranges these notes into a tasteful progression, but the way they play in game is entirely up to how the player chooses to color them. Beyond that, the mysterious underground denizen’s theme makes another appearance. I wonder who they are…?

Grub Deep

The deeps are basically a direct continuation of the caves theme, taking the harp refrains and introducing a counterpoint in pizzicato strings based on Pizza’s theme, but wrapping it into the new underground motif. This was an extremely fun track to write, because it gets to exist on two planes: a bit of a modern fugue, but then also transformed into what I’d define as baroque hip hop in the 2nd half. I don’t know what it is about underground music that calls for sick beats, but here we are.

Her Wretched Utterances

There she is! It’s Drosera, everyone. Say hi, she’s perfectly harmless. This is also the introduction of my new favorite instrument, a synth flute that I found as a preset and then modified to my preference. It has an incredible range, being a synth and all, so I made full use of it everywhere I could.

Feast

The fun thing about Feast is that it’s a bit of a mirror self to Luncheon. It’s got guitar, the same synth pad, some acoustic bass, a woodwind lead of a sort, but is a bit groovier and undergroundier. A fun thing to reveal now is that the dark roots troubling Drosera & Feast are in fact the roots of the trees directly above them in the canyon, which is why their themes have a bit of interaction above ground. Hopefully Pizza can do something about them!!

Alone With Myself

As we approach the 3rd act of the story, I wanted to write a small moment of introspection that bridges together three of the major themes in the game. Almost like a thought process, the melody recalls Chicory’s theme, while the right hand adds in Pizza’s three repeated notes. Lastly, the chord begins a premonition of a major theme that will define the rest of the game: The Brush. We’ll find out more about that very soon.

Nobody

For the 4th boss fight, I needed to bring back the synth aesthetic in a big way. I took some big inspiration from some of the synth work of Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow, making an absolutely huge and engulfing mass of unsettled sounds. These specific sounds will show up again.

uoY mA I

This boss track is probably one of the weirdest and most complicated songs I’ve written. There’s three major sections to it, written in such a way that it plays both backwards and forwards. While the percussion always progresses forwards, the rest of the track bounces back and forth depending on the gameplay. It is both chaotic and intense, integrating Pizza’s theme, the darkness’ theme, and a strings riff that will also make a return later on.

Abandon Me

This song is more of a tragedy than a fight. It’s trauma, and survival, and I don’t really have much else to say that isn’t already expressed in the music itself.

As for the actual implementation, I found it to be a really cool experience to write a track & then remix it to create a more interesting rhythmic vibe. I used a lot of automation and filters to create the impression that I had a bunch of tracks set up on records & I was either starting/stopping them, scratching them, etc. to literally distort the individual elements making up the song. After I was done, Alexis hand-animated the entire visual presentation behind the encounter, which honestly still gives me chills every time I play through.

Chicory’s Theme

Finally, after everything, a version of Chicory’s theme that feels a tinge of optimism. This version really felt like a turning point in both the game and the soundtrack, a point to move on from, where the rest of the soundtrack wouldn’t be mired in the past, but looking towards the future. While I’d included bits and pieces of Chicory’s main motif throughout the soundtrack to this point, I wanted to take a moment to really establish a fully-developed theme for her, since you finally start seeing her in a new light from this point forward.

Banquet Rainforest

For each of the four wielder trials, I wrote with two objectives in mind: to embody the physical space they take place in, but to also embody one aspect of The Brush’s theme. Much like one goes on a quest to assemble, say, a Triforce, I wanted the melodic elements of The Brush’s motif to feel like piecing together a puzzle. It’s a little less obvious than a bunch of triangles forming a larger triangle, but if you pay attention you’ll be able to hear where all of the bits pull together. Beyond just the melodic references, however, I put a lot of feeling into making the gradually accumulating droplets of pizzicato strings and piano notes feel like they were engulfing the listener into the gently raining canopy. There’s a lot of water songs in Chicory, and the importance of flow figures into all of them.

Dessert Mountain

You could say I’m no stranger to songs about climbing a mountain. It was actually a challenge to write another one without sounding too reminiscent of my past work. You can hear some similarities to certain pieces, I’m sure, but I wanted to focus on what made a Chicory mountain climb sound significant. In this case, it’s the interplay between the flute and oboe melodic lines on top of the frantic string and piano motion. Again, another piece of The Brush melody is also revealed, for later reference.

Song of the Wielders

Depending on what order you play the wielder trials in, you might hear this sooner than later, but the Song of the Wielders is the very first piece that reveals the entirety of The Brush’s theme, something you could consider the main theme of the game. I’d say it lies somewhere between the trifecta of the Brush, Pizza, and Chicory. Either way, for this very special moment between Pizza and Chicory, I wanted to write a duet for vocaloid and SNES vocal samples. Because the game is unvoiced, we didn’t want to put a specific singing voice to the characters, so I chose singing “voices” that best reflected the personalities of each of the characters. The vocaloid Chicory uses is actually one I’ve used in my solo work, but I purposely made it a bit rougher and more artificial-sounding. Pizza’s, fittingly, is a cute little solo voice sample from a collection of SNES samples I love to pull from.

Simmer Springs

Simmer Springs is a quiet mountain resort town, so I gave it its own melody independent of the rest of the game. It is its own little respite from the stresses of the world, letting you chill out … or solve a mystery? 🔎

Turnabout Squeeze

Look, ok, sometimes when you have the perfect opportunity you’ve gotta take it. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Spoons Island

The island pulls from a lot of feelings of isolation and self-reflection in a way that evoked a lot of personal experiences, this past year in particular. When I was younger, I’d go out into the forest by myself and just find a place to sit away from everything. I’d lose track of time and space and self and just reflect on how I was feeling in the moment. I tried to channel this into the piece, both in how it slowly unfolds across its multiple layers, but also how it hints at an important theme to come, the culmination of all the various moments of self-reflection in the pieces before this.

More Than Myself

This whole piece started with the fragment of self-reflection in Spoons Island, but became its own little expansion on Pizza’s theme once I sat down at the piano to write a song to accompany painting your own self-portrait. It seemed fitting to do my own personal self-reflection in writing this track, which goes on to become pretty important in the latter stages of the game.

Color Lab

The Color Lab is a bit of a 4th wall breaking area, so I felt I needed to go a bit silly for this track. I wrote this while neck-deep in very serious endgame music, so if anything it was a bit of a small relief for me to write something goofy before heading back into the serious valley. Keen listeners will notice the similar self-reflective passage in this piece, also featured in Spoons Island, More Than Myself, the Wielder Temple, and The Mountain Top. Even though the Color Lab is a pretty silly place, I still wanted to ground it by tying it in with the other pieces that specifically vibe with the feeling of self-expression.

Calling Home

The original song I wrote for your parents, as called on the phone! For some reason the sound of the organetto & its clacky keys reminded me of using an old pay phone, so it seemed like the right choice for the lead instrument.

Brekkie

As a beach town, I wanted Brekkie to really have a vacation getaway feeling to it. Just a little cheesy, a little earnest. Like a date that you’re a bit embarrassed about, but you end up having a nice time anyway. One fun fact is that the low key version of this track is processed in a way so it sounds like it’s coming from a cheap speaker, like it’s being piped in through some a lil resort town sound system.

Brunch Canyon

There’s a lot of callbacks in the canyon, a lot of history and bad memories. The main synth pad is constructed from a granular sample of the opening chord of A Wielder’s Duty. The synth arpeggio is the same one used in Abandon Me. There’s fragments of Blackberry’s theme in all the various lead instruments. There’s even the synth flute from the underground, since I wanted to connect the space from this huge dark forest to the roots below.

Buried Deep

The heart of Brunch Canyon is full of fire and rage.

MONSTER

Self-loathing is a really difficult emotion to deal with. It’s guilt, it’s the knowledge that you’ve hurt someone, it’s the understanding that there’s no coming back from it, and all you have left to deal with is a broken sense of self-worth. These are all personal feelings I brought into this version of Blackberry’s theme.

On a technical side, I had a lot of fun creating a dynamic track that maintained a single loop without any progression, but using alternate layers to reinforce every attack the boss performs. So as you’re chased by the diamond-shaped attack, a breakbeat layer comes in to match the tempo of the chase. During each large attack’s wind-up, there’s either a high pass filter or crackly bitcrunch filter applied depending on the shape of the attack. I wanted to feel like the boss was directly affecting the mix using its moves, channeling that emotion to distort even the music itself.

She’s Gone

She’s gone.

The Wielders’ Legacy

The Brush’s theme in its most pure form! Once you’ve finished every wielder trial, this theme plays, and maybe if you’ve been attentive you’ll be like oh hey those melodic bits were in all those other area themes. Even if you don’t, it’s a fun theme with great recorder playing by Kristin.

Beyond just the notes, however, I wanted to capture something with this theme. It’s a weird melody, it changes keys half-way through, requiring a modulation to repeat. It’s also something that is used in both light and dark moments. It’s everything that the Brush tries to be: a catalyst for change, be it good or bad or somewhere in between.

Some segments are used more literally, others a bit more loosely, but ultimately all the thematic material for the trial areas is pulled from this melody.

The Dark Forest

Luncheon at its darkest is a far cry from its former self. It was fun to do a total reconstruction of the original theme and create something that felt almost overgrown in sadness rather than its original optimism. While you could call the motif reference in this track either Chicory or Pizza’s theme at this point, I ended up considering it Pizza’s primarily because theirs was the original theme, and the bass line supplements the repeated notes into the English horn’s melodic statement.

You’re Not Real

This is a very spooky song, constructed mostly out of The Brush’s theme, which is totally fine. It’s fine. It’s actually a suite of things that happen, all at once.

Just Reach Out

In the game, there’s a lot of silence between this track and the one that comes before it. I couldn’t replicate that on an album without it feeling really awkward, so just pause it for a bit or take a break to grab a sandwich or something. Now play this. Everything will be ok.

Something New

In the moments before the final section of the game, I wanted to write something that encapsulated the triumph of Pizza as Someone. Throughout the entire game they’ve been searching for something, using the repetition in their theme as a feeling of anxiousness, of rambunctiousness, of amateur ambition. It was important to me, in the lead-up to the finale, to make a triumphant statement that their theme is just as strong and powerful as any other, using the repetition as a definitive statement. It’s a powerful reinforcement of self, to be unique and different. To defy tradition and find a new way forward.

Once More Into the Dark

Originally the final moments before the last boss were quiet, but I really wanted to write something to preface the finale and tie everything together from You’re Not Real into the last confrontation, while also providing a rhythmic pulse to drive you forward to the end.

History Against Us

The finale of any game calls for pulling everything together to recall your journey and the things you’ve struggled against along the way. I wanted to put everything into a huge two-part arrangement that accompanies the multifaceted final encounter. There’s a whole lot I could say about the effort that went into writing such a complicated arrangement, but it was something I really wanted to achieve on my own. The first half is all about setting up the stakes. Without those established stakes, nothing in the second half would feel as cathartic as it does. Pizza’s come this far, struggled against so much, and no matter what they keep on fighting.

Do The Impossible

But they aren’t alone. Together, Chicory and Pizza can take on everything and do something no one thought possible. I am not embarrassed to go full anime when the opportunity calls for it. This was one of those times, and there’s not much to say about the composition other than just totally striking at the opportunity to go all out for one final track. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever written, and I hope the excitement is infectious! As a side note: I’m also really proud of this series of tracks, because I was able to perform almost everything in the arrangement myself. Granted, the drums and guitars are all sample libraries, but I played them myself, which was a personal challenge to overcome. I’m really happy with how it turned out, since I’ve wanted to write something like this for a really long time.

In a lot of ways, it felt like embodying Pizza’s determination to find a new way forward beyond the history of the Brush and the Wielders. I related to it a lot in my own personal struggles over the year I wrote this in. A lot of us felt the pressure of history breaking down, of the need to do what feels impossible to make the world a better place. It’s hard to feel optimistic about those efforts sometimes. I wanted to try my best to embody a sense of encouragement that it can be possible, we can do it, despite the odds. I don’t always believe it, but I hope to.

Change Everything

When I originally wrote the last passage in Do The Impossible, I had written it out a bit less rhythmically, just a really smooth chord progression with a variation of Pizza & Chicory’s themes coming together into one phrase. It didn’t fit a frantic boss battle, but I did want to use it again for the resolution. It seemed to fit perfectly in place for the aftermath of the final confrontation. The title also stems from my favorite line in the game, which also happens to be the last. “Tomorrow we change everything.” It effectively sums up the conclusion in a way that really made me tear up, so I had to honor it here.

The Mountain Top

I’ve always wanted to write a vocal song for a credits sequence. Probably since I was obsessed with 90’s JRPGs pushing into collaborations with various pop singers, it’s always been a bit of a dream of mine. So to be able to write something for the hugely talented Emi Evans was such an amazing experience. Greg originally wrote the lyrics for The Mountain Top for the in-game sing-along that plays alongside Song of the Wielders, and then one more final verse for this version. I also got to bring together almost all my instrumentalists for one big triumphant-feeling sendoff. I tried my best to follow in the footsteps of my songwriting idols and write a song I’d feel confident releasing as its own single. I hope I accomplished that.

The Tale End

One of the rewards for beating the game is being able to see a complete replay of the entire world being colored in. I thought it would be a perfect recollection to play out an all-recorder arrangement of the very first piece in the game, A Colorful Tale. The length also perfectly suited the draw-in time, totally by chance!

A Fresh Start

Because the town of Luncheon goes through so many changes over the course of the game, I felt like when you returned to the world in the post-game, it would feel almost too easy to just return the background music to normal. The town had changed in a permanent way, and going back felt too easy. So I gave myself more work by going back to the original track and then adding a few more layers to really fill it out with a full kit percussion track, some bass, and an added piano line. The town comes full circle in a way, but is still irreversibly different.

This Colorful World

One final thing that remains forever changed in post-game is the title screen. It felt like its own reward, in a way, to write a brand new arrangement of the first song you hear in the game. I always love neatly book-ending soundtracks, and this was a perfect conclusion to a very long journey.

Concluding thoughts…

Chicory is a really multifaceted game that explores a lot of things. It brings up themes of self-doubt, impostor syndrome, being looked up to, self-loathing, guilt. But it also explores the positives sides of being a mentor, a friend, an artist, an inspiration. In everyone are these multitudes, and I think it would be a needlessly fluffy experience to only have the positive without the negative. They reflect my own feelings very accurately as someone who was thrust into the spotlight after a lifetime of work just outside of it.

Beyond all the personal feelings, though, there is the much larger question of an authoritative body, of legacy and history. There’s the Wielders, and the responsibilities of upholding these things. At the start of these notes I brought up the topic of western music theory. It’s something I draw from a lot, as a musician that was raised by the standards of long-dead white men. Our legacy of Wielders, of maestros, of theorists, are what have survived due to the establishment of supremacy that keeps it alive. It’s easy to dive into what feels safe, the tried and true techniques that the vast majority of people look to and understand because they too have been raised on these standards & hear them everywhere in media.

But there’s so many other ways of thinking and theorizing out there. I think of my own tendencies to push against expectations. After listening back through everything I’ve written for Chicory I see where I’ve tried to steer an instrumentation or classical form towards what feels like contrasting vibes. But I don’t do that in a way just to be rebellious. I do it because it’s the direction I aspire to take modern music towards. The forms of long-dead composers are historical documents, and as composers in the modern age we have a responsibility to throw it all away and try something new. My direction was to take the past and bring it forward into modern forms inspired by the music of now, but I think we can go even further. I want to go further. It’s way more exciting than living in the past.